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Student Question

What is the message in Kipling's "The Way through the Woods" and what literary devices are used?

Quick answer:

In "The Way through the Woods," the poet's message is that the natural world will always overcome whatever is manmade. Throughout the poem, the poet uses literary devices such as repetition, sensory imagery, and rhyme.

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In "The Way through the Woods," the poet describes a beautiful, peaceful, idyllic natural setting in the form of the eponymous woods, and he makes the point that "the coppice and the heath" have covered the road that used to run through the woods. The implication here is that the woods is such an idyllic place because mankind, represented by the road, has been removed. Another implication is that whatever is manmade, such as the road, will always, inevitably, be overcome by nature. This idea, that man is temporary whereas nature is permanent, is a common theme in Romantic poetry.

To represent how peaceful and idyllic the woods are, now that all traces of man have been removed, the poet uses repetition, sensory language, and rhyme. For example, he repeats several times throughout the poem the sentence "There was once a road through the woods," or a variation of that sentence, such as "But there is no road through the woods." This repetition emphasizes that the peacefulness of the woods is directly consequent of the removal of the road and thus of mankind.

The poet also uses sensory language to describe the sights, sounds, and sensations of the woods. He describes seeing the "ring-dove" and "the badgers" and hearing the "beat of a horse's feet" and the otter who "whistles his mate." The poet also says that in the woods "the night-air cools." With these sensory descriptions, the reader is able to fully appreciate the beauty of the woods: the poet has allowed us not only to see it but also to hear and to feel it.

A third literary device that the speaker uses to emphasize the beauty of the woods is rhyme. There are, for example, lots of internal rhymes throughout the poem, whereby a word in the middle of a line rhymes with the word at the end of the same line. One such example is the third line of the poem, where the word "rain" in the middle of the line rhymes with the word "again" at the end of the line. There are also in the poem lots of end rhymes, whereby the last word on one line rhymes with the last word on another. In the second stanza, for example, the word "dew" rhymes with the words "through" and "knew." The frequency of the rhymes throughout the poem helps to emphasize the beauty of nature, because they lend a pleasing musicality and a rhythm to that beauty.

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